There is an inherent link between public health and planetary health
Deze bijdrage is grotendeels geïnspireerd door een recent hoofdartikel in het algemeen medisch weekblad, The Lancet. Onze overconsumptie en afhankelijkheid van fossiele brandstoffen moeten worden ingeperkt, zoniet zal de klimaatswijziging nog verergeren. Bovendien moeten we goed beseffen dat de klimaatcrisis ook een sociale crisis is met rampzalige gevolgen voor de volksgezondheid en het menselijk welzijn. We moeten denken aan de vele generaties die ons zullen volgen. Pathologisch kortetermijndenken is niet langer een optie.
Cette contribution s’inspire en grande partie d’un éditorial récent de l’hebdomadaire général de médecine, The Lancet. La surconsommation et la dépendance aux combustibles fossiles doivent être réduites, sinon nous serons confrontés à un aggravation du changement climatique. De plus, nous devons nous réaliser que la crise climatique est aussi une crise sociale aux conséquences désastreuses pour la santé publique et le bien-être humain. Il faut penser aux nombreuses générations qui nous suivront. La pathologique pensée à court terme n’est plus une option.
This contribution is largely inspired by the recent editorial of the weekly general medical journal, The Lancet. Overconsumption and reliance on fossil fuels must be curbed, or climate change will get even worse. Moreover, we must realise that the ecological crisis is also a social crisis, with disastrous consequences for public health and human well-being. We must think of the many generations that will follow us. Pathological short-term thinking is no longer an option.
Breast milk is best, but it could be better
Malgré 20 ans d’études de biosurveillance sur les substances per- et polyfluoroalkylées (PFAS) dans le
sérum et l’urine, nous sommes toujours confrontés à une mauvaise compréhension des teneurs en PFAS
dans le lait maternel. Cette constatation a amené un groupe de recherche du Canada et des États-Unis à
évaluer et à analyser le nombre limité d’études, publiées jusqu’à maintenant sur ce sujet.
Ondanks de 20 jaar lange biomonitoring van poly- en perfluoralkylstoffen (PFAS) in serum en urine,
weten we nog steeds veel te weinig over de PFAS-concentraties in moedermelk. Deze vaststelling leidde
een onderzoeksgroep uit Canada en de Verenigde Staten ertoe om het beperkt aantal studies, dat tot nu
toe over dit onderwerp is gepubliceerd, te evalueren en te analyseren.
Despite 20 years of biomonitoring studies on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in both serum
and urine, we still face poor understanding of PFAS concentrations in breast milk. This finding led a
research group from Canada and the United States to evaluate and analyse the limited number of
studies that have so far been published on that subject [LaKind et al. 2022].
Rather a fish meal than fishmeal
Some researchers worry about the impact of climate change on wild fish populations. Their research warns of potentially devastating effects across the globe. There will be tough times ahead not only for marine predators, but also for humans if they remain indifferent to the greatest challenges of this century.
Enkele wetenschappers maken zich zorgen over de impact van de klimaatwijziging op de populaties van wilde vissen. Hun onderzoek laat zien dat er mogelijk verwoestende gevolgen kunnen zijn voor de hele wereld. Zeeroofdieren wacht een harde tijd. Maar wanneer de mens onverschillig blijft voor de grootste uitdagingen van deze eeuw krijgt hij het ook hard te verduren.
Quelques chercheurs s’inquiètent de l’impact du changement climatique sur les populations de poissons sauvages. Leurs recherches laissent présager des effets potentiellement dévastateurs dans le monde entier. Les prédateurs marins vivront une période pénible. Toutefois, si l’homme reste indifférent au plus grands défis de ce siècle il en souffrira durement.
I am thoroughly fed up with the blah-blah-blah!
Dear friends, Dear colleagues, Every week, the Buddhist monk, humanitarian, author and photographer, Matthieu Ricard, sends me an e-mail. I loved the message he wrote me on December 4th this year. It was a crucial source of inspiration for the short communication you are about to read. I have added some personal comments and references.
Sound cooperation will change our world for the better
Referring to Robert Marshall Axelrod, who is best known for his interdisciplinary work on the evolution of cooperation, Martin Nowak explained why we need each other to succeed. He makes the case that cooperation, not competition, is the defining human trait: … This is the property of being nice, which is to say never being
Will the planet destroy humanity before we destroy the planet
On Tuesday 2 November James Lovelock, the 102-year-old originator of the Gaia theory and independent scientist, environmentalist and futurist, wrote in The Guardian: … I don’t know if it is too late for humanity to avert a climate catastrophe, but I am sure there is no chance if we continue to treat global heating and
Plastic litter, an almost unmanageable problem
For every euro paid for the production of plastic, society pays another nine for the damage it causes. In 2019, according to estimates worldwide, there were 2.8 trillion euros in so-called external costs that are not included in the price of plastics [Smit 2021]. This was the striking and alarming introduction to Pieter Hotse Smit’s
Shale gas: not what you would call a panacea!
British chemical company INEOS was awarded the 2020 Exceptional Investment Trophy Flanders’ Minister-President Jan Jambon presented this singular trophy – which has never been awarded before – to CEO of Project One at INEOS John McNally. “Last year, INEOS announced the construction of a new production site at the Port of Antwerp: an investment of
Yes, forever chemicals are fueling a public health crisis
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are no laughing matter Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are ubiquitous, highly degradation-resistant contaminants. They are numerous and no one is exposed to one single PFAS molecule. In my previous communication, I wrote that the number of identified PFAS largely exceeds 4000 different molecules [http://lc-office.be/are-forever-chemicals-fueling-a-public-health-crisis/]. My American colleague immediately sent me
Are forever chemicals fueling a public health crisis?
The Flemish newspaper De Standaard published an article under the surprising headline “3M draagt een verpletterende verantwoordelijkheid (3M bears a crushing responsibility)”. The article referred to the frightful contamination in Zwijndrecht by per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Clearly, we have not heard the last of this. Minister Demir announced in the Flemish Parliament that 3M
Intravenous trunk injection into apple trees
It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man (Henry David Thoreau) Can we finally replace conventional pesticides with harmless ones? The use of conventional pesticides is the subject of fierce debate because of their potential negative impacts on the quality of the ecosystem as well as
Baby hormones hacked by glyphosate
Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called “insecticides”, but “biocides” [Rachel Carson]. Think twice about using pesticides Glyphosate is the active ingredient of broad-spectrum glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH), which are now
What we need is a global science-policy body
More than 10 years ago, Rockström et al.  came up with a particularly chilling message. They proposed a new approach to global sustainability because they assumed that anthropogenic pressure on the Earth System had become so high that an abrupt global environmental change could no longer be excluded. The biggest contribution of their research
The world health crisis caused by the spread of COVID-19 is threatening environmental sustainability
Gorrasi et al.  evidence that the chaos and urgency induced by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to massive fossil fuel-derived plastic production and utilisation, thereby largely ignoring the recent environmental policies. They conclude that society issues can no longer be solved by the “painkiller approach” [Lichtfouse et al. 2010], but require instead a new
Are you absolutely certain? Do not spread uncertainties!
On January 30, the chief editor of the Belgian daily newspaper Le Soir [Delvaux 2021] published a striking article headed Parliament is the guarantor of democracy, not Twitter. I have translated the first paragraphs for you: We definitely do not need another Twitter “battle” between politicians and experts! The most recent exchange opposed the President
Production of meat from ruminant animals remains a major source of greenhouse gas emissions
Diets link environmental and human health Rising incomes and urbanisation are driving a global dietary transition, whereby traditional diets are replaced by diets higher in sugars, fats, oils and meats. If unchecked, these dietary trends will be a major contributor to the estimated 80 % increase in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. Global
Concerns of the chemist that I am
This title is a tribute to the famous French biologist and humanist, Jean Rostand. In 1967 he published Inquiétudes d’un biologiste (Concerns of a biologist). It is sometimes well for a blatant error to draw attention to overmodest truths! As long as 55 years ago, significant residues of DDT were found in Adélie penguins and
Trees should not be viewed as individuals, but as communities bound up in a complex set of ecological relationships
A tree’s most important means of staying connected to other trees is a “wood wide web” of soil fungi that connects vegetation in an intimate network that allows the sharing of an enormous amount of information and goods. A few years ago, I bought a book by Peter Wohlleben, put it aside and forgot about
Forest restoration and wildlife conservation, easier said than done
At first I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees. Then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest. Now I realise I am fighting for humanity (Chico Mendes) Although essential to the balance of the global ecosystem, forests are under severe strain. Slash and burn fires destroy large sections of forests. But, as we are all aware, forests play a
Plastic rain, we can no longer avoid it
Eleven billion metric tons of plastic are projected to accumulate in the environment by 2025. Because plastics are persistent, they fragment into pieces that are susceptible to wind entrainment [Brahney et al. 2020]. The presence of plastic in the environment can no longer be denied. It has become a very frightening and global problem. Plastics
Use your brain before it is destroyed by chemical cocktails
In March 2019, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a note entitled EFSA adopts a specific methodology for assessing chemical mixtures. The new methodological framework will provide EFSA scientists with the tools that will enable them to adopt, where appropriate, a specific approach to address mixtures of chemical contaminants. This approach will complement the
What lies ahead after the coronavirus?
COVID-19, we are talking about nothing else! As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 surges past 2.2 million globally and deaths surpass 150000, clinicians and pathologists are struggling to understand the damage wrought by the coronavirus as it tears through the body. They are realizing that although the lungs are ground zero, its reach
If you never buy packaged food, you can safely skip this article
Food contact and packaging articles are made up of a very large number of different food contact materials (FCM), each of them consisting of numerous food contact chemicals (FCC). Inevitably, FCC migrate from any type of material into the food and consequently, they are absorbed along with the food. Muncke et al.  emphasise their
Insect fat: could it replace butter in cakes and cookies?
Something weird is going on The fear and revulsion you may feel towards insects was probably instilled in you when you were very young, but the feeling is now beginning to dissipate. The thought of holding a grasshopper, a praying mantis, or a caterpillar no longer puts you off. More so even, if you are researching entomophagy,
Scientists have tried to do things the nice way but you, my dear policymakers, are still not prepared to take the message on board
In 2018, total greenhouse gas emissions in Belgium amounted to 118.3 megatons of CO2 equivalents, a slight increase of 0.28 per cent compared to 2017 I can only assume that you did not read this alarming message that was published in several Belgian newspapers. And yet, a substantial decrease in greenhouse gas emissions is needed
How do you respond to political intransigence?
2019 was another tough year for the environment [Castelvecchi et al. 2019] Up to one million plant and animal species now face extinction owing to habitat destruction and/or climate change, warns a recently published report of the Intergovernmental Science–Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from
Much-needed changes will only emerge from strong movements
Last month a group of “prominent” scientists sent a registered letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The letter, headed “There is no climate emergency”, urges Guterres to follow a climate policy based on sound science, realistic economics and genuine concern for those harmed by costly but unnecessary attempts at mitigation “. Climate Intelligence
Is it really bad for your health to eat red and processed meat? It seems as though what was considered dangerous has now become safe. Or is there a darker side to the story?
In October 2015, 22 scientists from 10 countries met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to evaluate the carcinogenicity of red meat and processed meat consumption. Their alarming conclusions were published in volume 114 of the IARC Monographs: consumption of processed meat is classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1) on the
Chemical cocktails in our food
Philosopher and Emeritus Professor of the University of Wageningen, Michiel Korthals, claims in his book Goed eten – Filosofie van voeding en landbouw  that our food has lost its innocence; and in August, the New York Times published “Our food is killing too many of us”. This creates serious concerns about the safety of
Hunger in the world
After a decade of steady decline, the number of people suffering from hunger in the world has been slowly increasing for several years in a row It is a bad trend, World Food Program boss, David Beasley, said during a press conference at United Nations (UN) headquarters. He warned: Without food security, we will never
Jellyfish are edible, but will we eat them?
Contrary to the dystopian future drained of humanity that is imagined by many, the combined force of Personalised Optimisation and Farming Impossible Environments carve a path for how we can cut food waste, bring deserts back to life and celebrate our humanity through the act of eating. This will bring about a renaissance of planet
Lab-grown bacon and steak
Here is something to think about. Several studies have shown that current trends in yield improvement will not be sufficient to meet the global food demand by 2050. They suggest that a further expansion of agricultural area will be required. Agriculture however is a main driver of biodiversity losses and a major contributor to climate
All hands on deck for circular economy
The current and traditional linear extract-produce-use-and-dump material and energy flow model of the modern economic system is anything but sustainable. In a linear system companies make products and the consumers use and dispose. Thus, the material flow is understood as the conceptual logic of value creation, with only virgin material entering the flow. Such a
A matter of all or nothing for every living organism
… Everything that has built modern human society is provided by nature and, increasingly, research demonstrates the natural world’s incalculable importance to our health, wealth, food and security… [Grooten & Almond 2018]. The World Wildlife Fund has released its annual Living Planet Report and it makes quite a depressing read. Wildlife populations, including mammals,
Nihil novi sub sole ?
This Latin expression ⎯ nihil novi sub sole, there is nothing new under the sun ⎯ appeared in the Vulgate Bible phrase, now in Ecclesiastes 1:9. I add a question mark to the quote. Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964) was an American marine biologist, author, and conservationist whose writings are credited with advancing the global
Humanity’s “ancestral microbial heritage” must be preserved
A really fascinating note at the forefront of the scientific news on October 4: Scientists call for “Noah’s Ark” of human microbes to prevent growing global health crisis. We owe future generations the microbes that colonised our ancestors for at least 200000 years of human evolution [https://www.independent.co.uk/] Are we losing this ? The most extraordinary
Sadness, disenchantment, and disbelief
Quand le lobby du patronat européen veut « minimiser » les efforts climatiques (When the European employers’ lobby wants to “minimize” the climate efforts): on September 19 Aude Massiot published a strikingly disturbing article in Libération . The original information is available on EURACTIV . Remember the summer of 2018. Looking at the average temperature measured by
When 1+1 could well be >2
A recent article by Desforges et al.  included some pretty surprising information: “In the present study, complex contaminant cocktails derived from the blubber of polar bears (PB; Ursus maritimus) and killer whales (KW; Orcinus orca) were used for in vitro concentration−response experiments with PB, cetacean and seal spp. immune cells to evaluate the effect
Can I eat some water, please ?
Common plastic bottles roughly take 500 – 1000 years to degrade. Obviously, there is a complete mismatch between how long they are used for and how long the environment takes to decompose them. Transparent plastic bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are recycled into new bottles, plastic containers for fruits and vegetables, textile fibres, carpets and stuffing for mattresses, jackets and sleeping bags [https://www.fostplus.be/en]1. However, tons of empty bottles are dumped every
May: the plastic-free month !
Plastic is everywhere. It is now high time to ban it from our lives. This was the message that was announced in the media. The action “Mei Plasticvrij (a plastic-free month of May)” wants to make the Flemish people aware of the problem. Its aim is to significantly reduce the production and use of plastic.
Plastic Attack, an event to highlight “our absurd plastic culture”, campaigners say
A Few weeks ago, the Plastic Attack action received tremendous media coverage. Newspaper articles and television news bulletins showed supermarket customers tearing off the packagings of the consumables they had bought and dumping them in bins at the exit. Is the use of packaging redundant? Will it soon be banned? Admittedly, we face a problem
It’s all corn !
Well, maybe not all of it is corn. But there’s an awful lot of it hiding in our food. A lot more than we ever suspected. We think our supermarkets offer huge varieties of food. Yet, much of that food comes from one single crop [Michael Pollan 2006]. And it all starts with … corn.
A growing appetite for fast food
Rather slow food than fast food! Michael Wolff, author of Fire and Fury, wrote “Sometimes Trump would have a 6:30 p.m. meeting with former chief strategist Steve Bannon, but if not, more to his liking, he was in bed by that time with a cheeseburger, watching his three screens and making phone calls.” This may
Say “yes” to genetically edited fruit crops !
In 2014 Jonathan O’Callaghan commented on the Queensland University of Technology project that aims to improve the quality of bananas: … The world’s first human trial of “super bananas” will start soon in the hope of a more nutritious source of food to Ugandans and East Africans. The bananas will be enriched in pro-vitamin A,
Today, the battle for market shares is being fought at the expense of the weakest links in the food production chain
The Agrifood Atlas warns that the monopolising of the food chain by “ever-fewer-ever-larger” corporations has far reaching consequences for our food system. The Agrifood Atlas compiled by the Heinrich Böll Foundation [https://www.boell.de/en], the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation [https://www.rosalux.de/en/] and Friends of the Earth Europe [http://www.foeeurope.org/] stresses the fact that agrifood corporations foster industrialisation along the entire
Cinnamon is a powerful spice that has been used for medical purposes around the world for thousands of years
Cinnamon has been known since ancient times. It received much attention in China as is witnessed by its entry in the ancient books on Chinese botanical medicine (dated ~2700 AD), attributed to the mythical Chinese sovereign Shennong. In Ayurveda, the Hindu health doctrine from India, cinnamon is recommended for the treatment of diabetes and
The “swimmer pollution”, up to 14000 tons of sunscreen enter the world’s coral reefs annually
Peggy Orenstein is a regular holidaymaker in Hawaii. For several decades she returned, year after year, to swim at the same bare-bones beach of Big Island. Her recent article in the New York Times is particularly surprising and worrying: … At first I thought it was my imagination, but this summer there was no denying
Grubs can be eaten raw and when they are cooked they taste like roasted almonds — or so we are told !
… This information will come in handy for those of us following the latest recommendation from the United Nations: Consume more insects … In fact, some two billion people eat a wide variety of insects regularly, both cooked and raw; only in Western countries does the practice retain an “ick” factor among the masses [Holland 2013]… On the one
Frequently occurring hyperthyroidism in pet cats: it is like raising the canary-in-the-coal-mine issue
… he (the veterinarian) warned, “these cats back here are radioactive.” He meant that literally. The previous day, all five animals received carefully titrated doses of radioactive iodine, designed to destroy the overactive cells that had proliferated in their thyroid glands and flooded their bodies with hormones. These cats are among the millions suffering from hyperthyroidism, one
Glyphosate has become the world’s most widely used weed killer, which could well be serious cause for concern
Glyphosate has recently been the subject of a number of articles in newspapers and magazines. Three of them in particular caught my attention: “Glyphosate presence in honey raises concerns” in the Canadian weekly The Western Producer [Arnason, 09.03.2017], “Tribunal Monsanto: la firme américaine reconnue coupable d’atteinte aux droits humains (US firm found guilty of human